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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Talking Shop: Leona Lewis
After 10 months absence from the limelight, singer Leona Lewis - winner of 2006's X Factor - returns with her new single Bleeding Love, to be followed by her debut album Spirit in November.

The 22-year-old talks about her time working with some of the music industry's biggest songwriters, Simon Cowell and her new sultry image.

Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis wants to be known as a songwriter as much as a singer

How has life been for you since you won X Factor?

So much has happened since then it seems longer than 10 months. It's been great - I've been recording and I've been to the US and travelling a lot so everything has changed for me since.

I had a little break with my family in Dubai at Christmas but since then it's been a whirlwind and it still hasn't sunk in. I keep pinching myself, asking, 'Is this real?'.

People recognise me now in the street and come up to me and say, 'Congratulations'. You just don't realise how many people know you.

But I don't take anything for granted because you never know what is around the corner. I am really excited, having fun and working hard and really thankful for the opportunity.

Your new single Bleeding Love is very catchy but how does it compare to the rest of the album?

We decided to go with that track as the single not just because it was a great song but also because I wanted people to see a different side to me. I wanted something with a groove behind it because on X Factor I'd done a lot of big ballads. There are still those big classic ballads that I love to sing on the album but there is also up-tempo, edgier stuff so there's really something for everyone.

Are they all new tracks?

They are all original which is why it took a bit of time. We wanted to create an album of original material, one that was really great. There is just the one cover version, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

You were doing a fair amount of songwriting before X Factor so how much input have you had in the writing of the album?

I wanted to involve my own writing so I went to the US and did a showcase for lots of songwriters and then went to a kind of "writing camp" which meant spending time in Miami, Atlanta and LA writing with different songwriters. We did loads of writing and recording and have whittled it down to the tracks that are on the album.

Which big-name songwriters have you been working with?

I found myself in such a fortunate position to be able to write with these people and I was in awe of them. I met Walter Afanasieff, who wrote a lot of the early Celine Dion and Mariah Carey songs.

Leona Lewis
Lewis returned to X Factor as a special guest this year

I also worked with Ne-Yo, who is a big artist himself and a great songwriter, and Ryan Tedder from the band OneRepublic. There were so many and it was amazing to be able to work with them.

How much say did you have in the kind of music you were recording?

As Simon Cowell said to me: at the end of the day it's my album. So I wanted to make something to be proud of and something that represents me. In order to do that, and because I had written before, I wanted to write and be very much involved in everything.

How much involvement has Simon Cowell had?

He's obviously really busy with American Idol in the US and X Factor in the UK but he's been really involved in the mixing and the song choices and what went on the album. We've had loads of discussions and he's still very much a mentor to me.

Your image seems to have become very sultry - who is responsible for that?

I guess it has just been a progression. I did a fashion shoot for Harpers Bazaar magazine. I love to be creative, I love fantasy, and it was a mermaid-like shoot because I love nature and I suggested we do that. I still work closely with the creative lady at Harpers. It's just about having fun with different styles and different looks and in the end being comfortable and confident with your look.

Was it first time you had been to the US and how would you feel about moving there for your career?

I'd been before for a family holiday - Disneyland for my 18th birthday. It was lovely being there with the sun and the sea. If I am there working it would be nice to have an apartment instead of staying in hotels although I don't really mind that. As long as my music can reach as many people of possible. But my family are in the UK so I am in London for now.

How do you think you will cope with the pressure of expectation and fame?

It was strange when I came out of X Factor when I had all these people around me but I didn't know what anyone did. Now I have people I know and trust but especially my family and my friends who are the most important to me. As long as they are around me I think I'll be fine.

You are often compared to Mariah Carey - wouldn't you rather be praised for being individual?

I am definitely an individual. A lot of people can have a lot of different influences, everyone can be compared in some way to someone whether they are from 60 years ago or more recent. But I think that's such a big compliment. Those big female singers were who I was listening to when I was growing up and they did have a lot of influence on me. I would never complain about the comparison.

You performed on the new series of X Factor - what do you make of this year's contestants?

It was a surreal experience going back but I had a sense of achievement and had fun despite it being nervewracking. I was very glad I wasn't being judged.

All the contestants have done brilliantly just to get this far. They are all individual and they are all really good and are going to develop over the weeks to come.

What if your album does not do that well?

I'm just focused on music. Even before X Factor I would work part-time and then I'd still do part-time in the studio or doing gigs and whatever else I could do. I am passionate about it so I am still going to go for it and keep doing what I love and that's singing.

Bleeding Love is on sale now and Spirit will be released on 12 November. Leona Lewis was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Rebecca Thomas.

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30 Mar 07 |  Entertainment
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